Yesterday’s Government announcement of an infrastructure package designed to stimulate employment will not bring forward the building of the Penlink Road and bridge from Whangaparaoa Peninsula to Redvale.
The building of Penlink is currently set to begin towards the end of next year as part of an earlier Government infrastructure package, announced at the end of January.
Under the Government’s latest initiative, Auckland Council has been asked to come up with a list of projects that are ‘shovel-ready’ and meet strict criteria, by April 14.
The issue was discussed by Council’s Emergency Committee, which met today by Skype. (All Councillors are on the committee, which has the functions and power of all Governing Body committees and sub-committees, except for the Audit and Risk Committee, in times of emergency. Its meetings are live streamed.)
As the Government’s criteria includes projects of $10 million or more that are ready to go and bring public or regional benefit, Penlink would seem to fit the bill and at the Emergency Committee meeting, Cr John Watson questioned whether projects like Penlink met the criteria.
“The response was that these employment-instigating projects are on top of the transport package announced earlier in the year,” Cr Watson says. “This means Penlink continues with the timetable signalled at that announcement – that is towards the end of next year.”
Mayor Phil Goff said Auckland is looking for its fair share of the nationwide projects, reflecting the 34 percent of the country’s population and 38 percent of GDP that the city represents.
He said that the criteria are narrow, and the timeline steeper, than anticipated and that input from Councillors and Local Boards will have to be fast – Councillors will give feedback on projects by Monday, April 6 and the list of Auckland’s ready-to-go infrastructure projects will be put together this time next week at the Council’s next Emergency Committee meeting.
The Government will decide under which Covid-19 Alert Level the construction industry can recommence its work. Environment Minister David Parker has already signalled that work is underway to fast-track the resouce consenting process for certain projects during the Covid-19 recovery phase.
The proposals could include: developing a rapid transit system to the North West; funding light rail from the City Centre to Mt Roskill and Māngere; a fourth main trunk rail line constructed at the same time as the third to save costs; increasing NZTA funding proportions for projects such as the Matakana Link Road, which could start immediately, and the second and third stages of the Eastern Busway to Botany; sped up construction of cycleways; bringing forward roading renewals currently at the back of the 10-year Auckland Transport Alignment Project; creating a charging network and bus depots to accelerate electrification of the city’s bus fleet; funding local roads in new housing developments such as Drury; building infrastructure to allow intensive residential and commercial precincts around the new City Rail Link stations at Mt Eden, Karangahape Rd and Aotea Centre; funding underground fresh, waste and stormwater infrastructure in regeneration programmes such as Tāmaki, and new developments such as the Unitec site; bringing forward separation of wastewater from stormwater to clean up Auckland’s harbours; cultural and community amenities such as building a Pasifika and Māori cultural centre at Manukau, Te Papa North.
Meanwhile, Councillor John Watson says although Penlink will not be brought forward as part of the Government’s employment-focused infrastructure initiative, there are things happening behind the scenes to get the project ready for its current projected start date, towards the end of next year.
This includes the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) coming up with a final,‘2020’ design that will be publicly consulted on.
Cr Watson says while the route of the road and other aspects are already finalised, the specific design is not. He is particularly keen to see an attractive/striking bridge design in keeping with the beauty of the Weiti River and surrounding area.
NZTA is now the lead agency on the project and it has formed an internal project group dedicated to Penlink.
Cr Watson says the first meeting took place a week ago to discuss an overall approach to the project and more discussions will be arranged to shape up the process.
“Over the next couple of months, the NZTA Penlink project group will focus on developing a stakeholder management plan, designing a practical approach to the resource consent conditions and finalising the project plan,” Cr Watson says.
“At this stage, the discussion regarding the design of the road and bridge will start early next year, with construction starting in late 2021 but this tentative timeline is subject to how Covid-19 will unfold over the next few months, as with all large transport projects.”
NZTA is developing a webpage to communicate updates on Penlink, which will be available to the public possibly from later this month or early next month – as soon as a dedicated webpage is set up.